There has been much going on and many thoughts swirling around as I struggle to assemble something coherent for what used to be the biggest shopping day of the year for some – and recovering from acute carbohydrate poisoning for others. November, Turkey, Covid – somehow it all fits.
It’s a good Thanksgiving in the US is celebrated this weekend. This thought occurred to me on a cold, rainy morning this week as I prepared to get to work. Without Thanksgiving there is nothing good to be said about late November. And this year there seems to be little good about Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was a big holiday in my youth – on my father’s side of the family, especially. My paternal grandfather was born and raised a New Englander, so Thanksgiving had deep roots in our clan.
As Marianne and I have gotten older we have often taken on the task of hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Children, children’s boy/girlfriends, brothers, sisters, and even the occasional neighbor have filled our dining room table as we enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner done in full traditional style.
This year we did the holiday by ourselves. As we discussed how we might pare down the food selections to something that joined a manageable workload to an appropriate scale, Costco came to our rescue with a pre-prepared Thanksgiving dinner with a half stuffed turkey breast, mashed potatoes and green beans, all handily packaged in disposable foil baking dishes. They even threw in the cranberry sauce (“Caution – remove before baking”). As this is being written our Costco Thanksgiving remains in the refrigerator, making possible in our imaginations the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever. I can come back in the comments to share the reality.
You might think that the prospect of baking a store-bought meal kit and eating it by ourselves on a dreary late November day might be the Worst Thanksgiving Ever. But you would be wrong. I may be the only person in the United States who consider this year’s Thanksgiving as an upgrade over the 2019 version.
We had plans in place for the full deal with family and all to attend. I still recall running the vacuum during some last-minute spiff-up before we got down to some serious food prep in mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving Eve, when two things happened. First, our power went out. Ours is an older neighborhood with wires strung on poles instead of buried underground, and our wires are constantly menaced by limbs from the many, many tall trees in the area that miraculously avoid periodic
butchering trimming by the power company. It was while we contemplated our options for candlelight meal preparation that I got the call.
My mother’s care facility called with news that she had taken a bad turn and that there was concern that this could be the time we had been simultaneously hoping for and dreading. Five years of dealing with progressive dementia will encourage both of those feelings.
I threw some things into a bag and Marianne and I agreed that I would call later so that we could make a game-day decision about what to do about a Thanksgiving dinner that was on the five yard line and under center. I’m not the biggest football fan in the world, but if you can’t use football metaphors about Thanksgiving, when can you ever use them?
I spent the night in a chair by her bed as her failing body kept triggering one breath after another, in the way all who knew her expected of her dogged German constitution. By early Thanksgiving morning Marianne and I determined over the telephone to scrub mission. I think I had the easy job – Marianne got to call everyone and tell them there would be no Thanksgiving dinner that day.
Mom (temporarily) rallied by Saturday and those of us in the immediate family proceeded with a simplified, quick-ish version of Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday. That mini-holiday was followed by a funeral a couple of weeks later.
So as bad as things may be for Thanksgiving 2020, there is a lot to appreciate this year. Our dinner may be simple and our family may not be with us, but it beats spending time separated with one of us on a recliner in a nursing home. The purpose of Thanksgiving is to be thankful, and in our case there is plenty to be thankful for, Covid precautions and all.